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Heavy Metal

By Aaron Zundel

“Transformers”DreamWorks PicturesDirected by Michael BayWritten by Roberto Orci and Alex KurtzmanStarring Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Bernie Mac and John VoightThree-and-a-half out of four stars

For anyone who loves Transformers: Don’t waste time reading this review.

Just go.


And make sure to bring enough money, ’cause when it gets out you’re going to want to go back in and see it again.

For everyone else:

As a critic, I try to remain objective when I watch a movie.

I couldn’t do that with “Transformers.”

From the opening shot, when Autobot leader Optimus Prime regales the audience with the history of the planet Cybertron, to the moment Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), the film’s teenage hero, discovers that his car is alive, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Did I mention I didn’t even like Transformers as a kid?

“Transformers” follows the story of the Autobots and the Decepticons, gigantic, shape-shifting robots from the planet Cybertron in search of the life-giving “allspark.” Over time, their hunt has brought them to Earth, and now the evil Decepticons, having discovered the location of the allspark, are bent on retrieving it and destroying humanity in the process.

Enter the Autobots, determined to protect humankind because of their potential for good. Together with Witwicky and a ragtag group of soldiers, they will battle the Decepticons, ultimately deciding the fate of the planet.

Blowing the dust off a 20-year-old toy line, director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg have turned “Transformers” into a new franchise for DreamWorks, infusing “Transformers” with more energy than the “allspark” itself.

With Bay’s kinetic camerawork driving the action and Spielberg’s emotional influence guiding the story (at one point Spielberg was set to direct himself, but helped guide the story in development), the film has enough fuel to run for two-and-a-half hours without ever getting dull.

In fact, “Transformers” might have a little too much energy. The last 30 minutes are filled with so many explosions and so much cybernetic carnage that by the time Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots make their final stand in the middle of Los Angeles, it becomes a bit tiring.

As a director, Michael Bay was a scary choice for “Transformers.” With his rsum peppered with hits such as “The Rock,” alongside disappointing failures such as “The Island,” there was no way to tell how well he would handle the material.

As it stands, the only real complaint against Bay comes from some of his visual choices.

For some reason, Bay loves lens flare, and can’t seem to help composing slow-motion shots with the camera pointed directly at the sun (or the nearest available 15,000 watt light source). The flare has plenty of dramatic impact, but after a while I felt like putting on a pair of sunglasses.

The camerawork also gets too close to the action on occasion, and it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on during a few of the most intense sequences — only that it involves cybernetic carnage and big explosions.

Despite its snazzy visuals, the best part about “Transformers” is its heart and humor.

LaBeouf, in particular, is infectious as Sam. Coupled with a solidly macho performance by Josh Duhamel as the head of a U.S. Marine special ops team and the neurotic comedy of John Turturro, who plays an unlikable self-important government bureaucrat, the film has enough of a human element to give the audience something to attach to.

More surprisingly, some of the Autobots display a startling amount of depth for nearly featureless CGI creations. Perhaps “Transformers'” greatest achievement is the way it uses that depth to develop the relationships between humans and Autobots. When the chips are down, these connections allow the movie to sneak in a few genuinely poignant moments.

Bottom line: If you’re the type of person that holds their nose up at anything not directed by Jean-Luc Godard or Ingmar Bergman, “Transformers” is going to be an artistic disappointment.

But for those who enjoy a great summer popcorn flick, “Transformers” is as good as it gets.

Illustration by Eric Geerlings

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